The president's choice for a vacant slot on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals hit a roadblock when seeking Senate confirmation.
Robert E. Bacharach in 2012? No. Frank Keating in the early 1990s.
Democrats and others critical of Bacharach's languishing nomination for the appellate court slot are right in saying politics shouldn't trump qualifications. But the same thing happened to Keating after President George H.W. Bush nominated him for a Court of Appeals vacancy in November 1991.
The liberal lions who controlled the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, including Joe Biden, didn't like the choice. They let the nomination languish. When Bill Clinton succeeded Bush in early 1993, the new president moved on. Keating moved back to Oklahoma.
Keating's nomination came following a series of federal posts, including U.S. attorney, assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury and deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Like Bacharach, the Republican Keating had the support of both of Oklahoma's senators, one a Republican and the other a Democrat. By contrast, Bacharach's confirmation was stalled in part by our two Republican senators, who had endorsed the man. Reason? Politics in a presidential election year. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., called it “blatant partisanship.”
Democrats crying foul over Bacharach's treatment should recall their position when Keating's name was in the hopper. About a month before the 1992 presidential election, Biden told Oklahoma Sen. Don Nickles that Keating's nomination was dead. Biden and other Keating foes cited decisions he'd made at HUD, but the real reason is that they wanted the next president to make the selection. Blatant partisanship?
Clinton defeated Bush and eventually nominated Democrat Robert Henry for the 10th Circuit seat. Henry's confirmation sailed through the Senate.
Keating came home and served eight years as governor, much to the dismay of his Democratic critics. Had his nomination not been derailed by “blatant partisanship,” he might still be on the court today.